When the last wave of revolts broke out in the Arab world, I was often asked the question that appeared, in the eyes of many in the West, as one of the most intriguing: is democracy possible in the Arab world and in the Muslim world? The most direct and most common formulation was: Are Islam and democracy compatible?
I answered – rightly, I think – yes; that there was not why imagine that certain societies, human like all others, did not have desires for, among other things, freedom and participation, and were not able to build systems in which these desires were met.
Only, I thought, the democracy that these societies would build would have the marks that would be its own. It could not be imposed or imported without the word itself losing meaning.
Someone told me then that I answered that way because I didn't know what democracy was. This truth spoken in this way, without mercy, opened before me the pit of my own ignorance. I might be right about the logical impossibility of a democracy that is both democratic and imposed, at the same time genuine and clumsy imitation, but what, after all, is democracy?
You who are reading, would you know?
My perplexity with the thing goes back a long way. Ever since school, perhaps even more since the movie theaters I used to go to most fondly, we have been accustomed to representing Athenian democracy as the beginning of all good things and as superior to the discipline and authoritarian of Sparta – Sparta with defined abs. it will only do well, in the comics and in the movies, against the Persians, those usual villains with turbans and undefined faces.
It was necessary to make an effort to remember that this was a democracy exclusively of men and citizens, a democracy of masters and slaves.
Closer to us in time, the way many Europeans and other Westerners articulated their optimism about Turkish democracy each time gave me a confused surprise. The argument was that what guaranteed democratic continuity in that country was the constant threat of a military coup: any undemocratic deviation would be corrected by the violent action of the armed forces that would return democracy to its natural course!!
The strangeness caused by the image evoked, which even for those who do not understand anything about democracy can seem reasonably absurd, is only mitigated a little when one realizes that what is meant is that the military would be the guarantee of secularism, that they would constitute the defense against the Islamization of Turkish politics. Interesting the underlying idea of democracy, incompatible with Islam but not with a coup d'état.
And these days Turkey offers us new democratic riddles. In times of mass purge of the military, judges, prosecutors, professors and journalists, an evident escalation of authoritarianism and a growing Islamization of the power structure, the president responsible for all this has an unprecedented popularity that makes him unbeatable in any process. electoral. Can democracy and the voice of the people clash?
But my favorite riddle about democracy is another. I look with admiration at the countries that know, in their internal systems, the traces of what I imagine to be the face of Western democracy that wants to be universal – at this point, my ignorance having been exposed, I can only imagine…: free elections, alternation in power, secularism, participation, freedoms – with one or two exceptions for the circumstantial burkini –, a high degree of legal certainty. I won't say equality or social justice because that would be asking too much.
Only, admiration gives way to astonishment when I remember that, while these beautiful buildings were operating at home, these countries were dedicated to the colonial exploitation of other peoples, and when I see that even today, while they sell the discourse of democracy cheap, they do nothing more than to exercise, or to attempt, a domination of which friendly dictators or complacent elected officials are the instruments, and whose adversaries deserve a spring that will snatch them from their thrones.
I read somewhere, and it struck me as true, that since the beginning of time the freedom of some has been at the expense of the servitude of others.
And, as the song says, not to say that I didn't talk about flowers... Someone told me that representative democracy was dead everywhere, that parliaments no longer fulfill their mission and, completed with the full demonstration, "look at the our Congress…”
Now, our Congress is very busy. The question is whether it is fulfilling its role in relation to Brazilian democracy. After all, when all the rites and procedures have been carried out, when all the speeches, in spite of mortally wounding grammar, have been delivered to the satisfaction of the speakers and when the votes are counted, we will be able to say that a president was elected by popular vote. but was it overthrown by a kind of democratic coup?